December 13th, 2006 03:54 EST
Departing MNC-I commander discusses progress in Iraq
BAGHDAD — The Multi-National Corps – Iraq commanding general held a roundtable interview session at the CombinedPress Information Center here Tuesday as he prepares to relinquish command.
“I happen to believe that we have tremendous strategic interests in what we're doing over here,” said Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, MNC-I commanding general. “I happen to believe this is the most important conflict that we've been involved in the last 50 years.”
During the interview session Chiarelli expressed his views on the overall situation in Iraq.
“I hope we can start to focus with the new government, as it continues to get its legs underneath it,” Chiarelli said. “And I think it's absolutely essential that we give the Iraqis an opportunity to do exactly what they want to do, and that's to form their kind of democratic government here in Iraq. And no matter what we say back home, it's going to take time.
“I hope it will start to focus on some of the things that I'm talking about that I think will have as great an impact as say, increasing the number of Soldiers we have over here,” Chiarelli continued
One of this issues Chiarelli discussed was the security situation in Baghdad.
“As you get down into the individual police stations, one of the great things that happened with the Baghdad security plan was being able to basically have a police training team for every single one,” Chiarelli said. “We are about one to one. They're helping to train them, make them better, and start to fix some of the issues that we first saw when we got into the police, in a very focused manner that the police training teams allowed us to do.”
From training to equipping Chiarelli feels progress is being made. While the Coalition continues to equip the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Army continues to equip itself.
“I mean, that is something that is ongoing, a monumental task in building an army this size over this short period of time,” Chiarelli said. “Bringing it up both to a level of training and equipped to the level that it needs to fight this kind of fight.”
The overall situation in Iraq is very complex, Chiarelli said, and even though he is leaving, he said will continue to work toward the future of Iraq.
“I think it is singularly unique to our history,” Chiarelli said. “I know it's hard. I know how hard it is. And one of the things that I'm going to try to do when I get back is try to figure out a way to make it easier, because this is a relationship that we've got to continue.”
Chiarelli and his staff will be handing over the reins of MNC-I during a ceremony scheduled for Thursday.
(By Sgt. Matthew Roe, Combined Press Information Center)